Real-time viscosity and mass density sensors requiring microliter sample volume based on nanomechanical resonators

Benjamin A. Bircher, Luc Duempelmann, Kasper Renggli, Hans Peter Lang, Christoph Gerber, Nico Bruns, Thomas Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


A microcantilever based method for fluid viscosity and mass density measurements with high temporal resolution and microliter sample consumption is presented. Nanomechanical cantilever vibration is driven by photothermal excitation and detected by an optical beam deflection system using two laser beams of different wavelengths. The theoretical framework relating cantilever response to the viscosity and mass density of the surrounding fluid was extended to consider higher flexural modes vibrating at high Reynolds numbers. The performance of the developed sensor and extended theory was validated over a viscosity range of 1-20 mPa·s and a corresponding mass density range of 998-1176 kg/m3 using reference fluids. Separating sample plugs from the carrier fluid by a two-phase configuration in combination with a microfluidic flow cell, allowed samples of 5 μL to be sequentially measured under continuous flow, opening the method to fast and reliable screening applications. To demonstrate the study of dynamic processes, the viscosity and mass density changes occurring during the free radical polymerization of acrylamide were monitored and compared to published data. Shear-thinning was observed in the viscosity data at higher flexural modes, which vibrate at elevated frequencies. Rheokinetic models allowed the monomer-to-polymer conversion to be tracked in spite of the shear-thinning behavior, and could be applied to study the kinetics of unknown processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8676-8683
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2013


  • fluid viscosity
  • mass density sensors
  • microfluidic flow


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